We continue with our weekly Spotlight Series with a popular yet somehow forgotten receiver in Ravens history, Qadry “The Missile” Ismail. Though Ismail was only a Raven for three seasons, he was a player that made a tremendous impact on a team desperate for any sort of spark on offense. While the Ravens in the early part of the millennium are seen as a team carried by a legendary defense and possessing an inept offense void of any playmakers, Ismail was a true deep threat that forced defenses to respect at least one aspect of Baltimore’s passing game outside of Shannon Sharpe. Despite the list being shorter than a post-it note, Ismail is never mentioned among the franchise’s best receivers. He may not have the post season heroics of Anquan Boldin or the longevity of Derrick Mason but Ismail has more than proven his worth and deserves his name being mentioned in the same breath as the team’s other great receivers. It is time we shine some light on his underappreciated tenure in Baltimore.
Ismail came in to the league in 1993 as a second round pick by the Minnesota Vikings. After four relatively pedestrian years in Minnesota, he would bounce from Miami and New Orleans between 1997 and 1998 before ending up with the Ravens in 1999. To say not much was expected of him in Baltimore is an understatement. While the Ravens were known as a defensive force, the offense was atrocious and frequently hampered the team’s hopes of victory each week. The offense would simply trudge along game in and game out, relying on the vaunted defense to carry the Ravens to victory. A major spark was needed. While Ismail was not initially seen as that spark, he would quickly come to be one of the most underrated free agent pick ups in team history.
Ismail’s first season in Baltimore saw him earn career highs in receptions (68), yards (1108), and touchdowns (6). His deep speed made him a big play threat any time he was on the field, quickly earning him the moniker “The Missile.” That nickname was never more apt than on December 12th of that year against the Pittsburgh Steelers. In that game, Ismail exploded with 6 catches for 258 yards and 3 touchdowns. The former Syracuse product was a true problem for opposing defenses and he flashed his playmaking potential every week. For an offense void of many scoring threats, Ismail was an exception in 1999. 2000 was a bit of a down year as the team’s quarterback troubles bogged down the offense into a one dimensional running team while the defense steamrolled opposing offenses. Despite the discrepancy between the offense and defense, the team would still go on to make its first Super Bowl appearance where Ravens would route the Giants 34-7. In that game, Ismail logged one pivotal 47 yard reception to help keep a crucial drive going.
2001 would see an uptick in Ismail’s production, setting new highs in receptions (74) and touchdowns (7) while topping the thousand yard mark for the second time in his career. That would be his last season in Baltimore, as the Ravens were forced to part ways with Ismail and several other players in order to help manage their horrendous cap situation. Ismail would sign with the Indianapolis Colts but never came close to matching the production he had with the Ravens. Playing second fiddle to Marvin Harrison while catching balls from a still developing Peyton Manning, Ismail never truly clicked in that offense and would not come back. He would quietly retire from the NFL following the 2002 season.
Ismail is rarely mentioned as one of the best receivers in team history despite stacking up well against the best. Anquan Boldin, who is routinely brought up as one of the team’s greats, had less productive regular season stats than those of Ismail. Both spent three years in Baltimore and Ismail had more receptions (191 vs 186), receiving yards (2819 vs 2645) and receiving touchdowns (18 vs 14) than Boldin during their respective time with the Ravens. Playing for offenses that are seen as putrid at best, those numbers were no small feat. Ismail’s speed and big play ability gave the Ravens offense a true threat that could score any time he was on the field. Few players in team history have made the offensive impact that Ismail made during such a short span. In just three years, he became one of the team’s leaders in virtually every major receiving category, numbers that are still high on the team’s lists to this day. The Missile has more than made his case as one of the best receivers in history and the impact he made for the team around the turn of the century must be remembered.